by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
In a meeting with Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White last Tuesday, current heavyweight champion Randy Couture turned down a proposed title defense against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 81 on Feb. 2, 2008.
There was also some fence mending to be done at the meeting. Following Couture’s resignation from the UFC in October, the two went a couple of rounds through the media, disputing the basis of the resignation. With the meeting, Couture said he was able to air out the issues addressed in his decision and looks forward to a cooperative relationship with his employer of eleven years.
“We’ve cleared the air, and hopefully we’ll move forward with some sort of relationship,” Couture said. “I’ve got a lot of fighters and a lot of things that hinge around mixed martial arts and the UFC as well. I want to continue to work with them and I think that they want to continue to work with me, so we’ll figure out how that happens.”
The magnitude of response to his resignation shocked the five-time UFC champ.
“This whole resigning thing took on a life of its own,” he said. “There were 72 media outlets trying to get a hold of me. [I was] on the cover of Yahoo, it was just insane to me. I figured I’d go away quietly, maybe MMAWeekly would cover it, Full Contact Fighter or something like that would do a blurb on it, but it would be confined to the small niche… of mixed martial arts. Truly a testament to how big the sport has gotten by the reaction of me stepping down.”
Since then, Couture has been busy taking meetings for multiple film projects he is slated to begin work on in the next year. He still wants to fight No. 1 ranked heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, but says his UFC contract makes it unlikely.
“Obviously I have a contractual obligation with the UFC. There’s been some haggling and things going on with all that, and Fedor signing with M-1 made the possibility of that fight very difficult because of that and because of those contracts,” he said.
The experience has underscored his need to take a step back from full-time fighting and focus on his personal life.
“I think more than anything at this stage of things I want to slow down a little bit,” Couture said. “I’ve been burning it for three or four years now … I want to take some time and go on a vacation, spend some time with my wife. We’ve been married a year now and we’ve been together very, very little in that year; it’s been crazy. It’s been difficult on us. I’ve got a nice house and I don’t even get to spend any time in it hardly, so take a little time now and just smell the roses so to speak.”
It appears that a fight for the now-vacant heavyweight title is in the works. It now appears that Nogueira will most likely face Tim Sylvia, who earned his contender slot with a win over Brandon Vera at UFC 77.
For Couture, the lesson lies in trusting his internal compass.
“I can’t focus on or account for other people and their motivations and their actions,” he said. “I have to focus on myself and just worry about that, and not let the other stuff in … it will drive you crazy.”